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Tips to Make Your Website Accessible

Accessibility is about improving the web experience for everyone. Accessibility barriers make it difficult or impossible for visitors who are blind, deaf, hard of hearing, or disabled to use your site.

WebAIM analyzed one million homepages for accessibility issues and found that 98% of websites had at least one Web Content Accessibility Guidelines failure on their homepage. Common issues are:

  • Low-contrast text
  • Missing image alt text
  • Empty links

Audit Your Site

The first step in ensuring your site is accessible is an audit. The WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool will identify errors on your site.

Tips for Improvement

Make sure all images have alt text, starting with your logo. Alt tags will show when images are not displayed. Think of your site without any images, and make sure the alt text will help the user to make sense of the site in that mode.

Structure your content with appropriate headings. Make sure your page has one H1 heading and that subheads follow a logical descending structure.

Select fonts and colors for legibility.  Avoid font styles and sizes and color palettes that make your site difficult to read. Pay attention to contrast, or the difference between the darkness of your text and the lightness of your background.

Clearly describe your links.  When linking to another page or post on the web, make sure your linked text is descriptive. “Click here” is not as effective as “learn how to fix accessibility errors.”

Give clickable elements space. Make buttons, icons and clickable elements wide-enough so they are easy to click or tap from different devices.

Include captions or transcripts for multimedia content. If your site includes videos, add captions or  transcripts. It’s best if video and audio content do not auto-play, but if that’s not possible, options to pause or adjust the volume should be obvious on the page.

Accessibility Online and Your Website

Does your website need to be accessible? Disabilities rights advocates say the answer is yes, but the actual requirements are less clear.

Federal websites have had a mandate to make sites accessible for some time now. Most state and local government sites have complied as well. When I worked at Fairfax schools, making the websites Section 508 compliant was a major priority.

Legal Requirements for Accessibility

Recently, the Supreme Court declined to take up a case  from Domino’s, in which the pizza chain argued that the Americans with Disabilities Act, which protects individuals with disabilities against discrimination, doesn’t apply to online spaces. A blind man, Guillermo Robles, sued Domino’s when he couldn’t order food on their website and mobile app using a screen reader that helps people who are blind read text online.

The Supreme Court decision to not hear the case means the lower court’s decision, which stated that customers should be able to access Domino’s website and app, stands.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title III federal civil rights law, public businesses are required to provide effective communication with the people served. Effective communication isn’t happening, disabilities rights advocates argue, when someone who is blind can’t use a business’ website or mobile app.

However, the requirements of the law related to online spaces are vague. There aren’t any explicit federal regulations mandating that businesses make websites and mobile apps accessible. The ADA was passed in 1990, when internet was just emerging.

Requirement or not, every business should ensure that the website – their online home base – is accessible to everyone. Everyone uses the internet. Period.

Accessibility Factors to Consider

Many of the web content accessibility guidelines are easy to incorporate into any website.

  • Provide clear and consistent navigation that can be navigated with keyboard keys
  • Use “alt text” for any non-text elements of a page, such as pictures and charts, so that a screen reader can identify what’s in the image
  • Pay attention to color contrast to be sure that text can be read by people with low vision and those with color blindness
  • Mark up videos with closed captioning and audio descriptions
  • Use proper structural elements on pages (heading and body tags)
  • Ensure that moving, blinking, scrolling, or auto-updating objects or pages can be paused or stopped

Check Your Website

Not sure how well your website does on these and other accessibility checkpoints? Website accessibility tools can help. Keep in mind that not all tools pick up on all issues. Any progress you make on being more accessible increases the number of people who can meaningfully experience your website.